Food and Flex: The Story of Big Sam’s Kitchen
How Two Brothers Are Causing a Stir in the Kitchen
They are two brothers who complement each other, with an out-of-the-box idea, interesting levels of creativity and energy, swag and a good dose of humour. They have taken Snapchat and Instagram by storm with their weekly cooking shows and pictures of their well-crafted mouth-watering delicacies, redefining the Ghanaian kitchen narrative. We got to meet and hear the story of Samuel (SO) and Albert Owusu (AO), founders of Big Sam’s Kitchen, Ghana’s first cooking show on Snapchat.
Whiles in high school, they started their first enterprise, Sniche Klodin which they are still running. Big Sam’s Kitchen is their new baby, which they started this summer and they are having fun whiles doing what they’ve always loved: cooking. This certainly makes for a great story.
PART I: Getting to Know the Two Brothers
Kindly introduce yourself
SO: I’m Samuel Owusu. I’m 23. Currently a final year student at the University of Professional Studies, studying Business Administration.
AO: I’m Albert Owusu. I’m 22. I’m also reading Pharmacy at Central University. I’m in my final year too.
Tell us about growing up
SO: Well I grew up in the family of six with my parents and three amazing siblings. Growing up, mom ensured that we learned how to cook. She would say “Just because you are a guy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be in the kitchen.” She always believed it was important for her sons to know how to cook the food they want to eat, so they could be independent from an early age. So every guy in the family knows how to do something at least.
AO: Sammy and I attended SOS Hermann Gmeiner School, Tema from primary to junior high school, then Sammy led the way as he continued to Presec Legon for his senior high school education. I followed him a year after.
Sammy, how much did food and cooking play a role in your childhood and upbringing? Any memorable food experiences that impacted you as a kid or teenager?
SO: We grew up around a lot of uncles. One of them, Uncle Ernesto was an amazing cook. I remember Albert and I will just hang out with him and just cook something amazing and fun any time he was in Ghana for the summer holidays. Cracking jokes was his thing. I guess that’s where I picked up goofing around whiles cooking. From these experiences, I’ve been quite picky with food since I was a kid.
Albert, has cooking always been a passion?
AO: Well I wouldn’t say cooking was a passion. It was a necessity for me. Mom believed that we had to know how to fix up our own plates of food when we were hungry so we picked up the skill from there.
“Once upon a time two brothers decided to take a long journey from their comfort zone i.e. their rooms to a kitchen… the rest is history.” Creative introduction to Big Sam’s Kitchen on Instagram. Who started this and got the other to hop on?
SO: I started working out last summer, and I got tired of eating the same food at home all the time. I learned about the importance of diet and I developed the habit of taking pictures of my food when it looked good. So after working out one day and putting my workout on my Snapchat, I thought to myself, “Why don’t I drive to the mall, get some meat, vegetables and other ingredients and cook something for myself since I had to be checking my diet anyways?” So I put the drive from the gym to the mall, came home and cooked some food for myself and put the whole cooking process on my Snap, and the response was crazy. So I spoke to Albert about it and we realised we could actually make this a thing. And there you have Big Sam’s Kitchen. So yeah, I started and got Albert on board.
What has been the response from family and friends?
AO: The funny thing is, no one in our family knows about Big Sam’s Kitchen except my siblings and our Uncle called Kelvin (laughs), but the response from friends has been out the roof. They’ve really been supportive and positive.
You are doing a cooking show on Snapchat. Is this the first of its kind in Ghana? Why did you choose Snapchat? How has the reception been so far?
AO: We will consider Big Sam’s Kitchen as the first cooking show on Snapchat in Ghana. The response so far has been amazing. Our views on Snapchat has doubled since we started the show, and we will continue to make this the most exciting thing people will look forward to watching on their phones.
SO: I’ve noticed that most young people lately do not have time to watch TV. They are either on their phones Snapchatting or Instagramming or behind their laptops watching stuff on YouTube. This is what brought us to the decision to put our cooking process on Snapchat and Instagram so our friends and many more people will be inspired and also learn how to cook.
Apart from being a student and running Big Sam’s Kitchen, is there anything else of interest that you will like us to know?
SO: I’ve always loved dancing and playing basketball. I was the captain of the basketball team in SOS and Presbyterian Boy’s Secondary School (Presec). However due to the pressures of uni, I’ve had to re-prioritize my hobbies. I don’t play basketball as much as I used to but I love it to death (laughs). Oh and I also got a clothing line called Sniche Klodin that is currently running the Sniche X Vita Corona. We’ve always been the guys who always had to have something going on. We can’t sit idle for a minute (laughs).
AO: Well I’m the music guy. I love jazz music, from John Coltrane to Kirk Whalum. I really do love jazz and good music in general. I listen to all genres too and I play the Saxophone. And as Sammy said, we also run a clothing line together.
“Food and flex. Good vibes. Staying healthy and having fun.” Tell us more about this ‘mantra.’
SO: Food and Flex because our presentation of the food we cook is to make the food look so cool as if as it was flexing (laughs). We also believe that God created food to help our bodies, serving a good purpose of keeping us alive and healthy.
AO: We usually have it on the weekends. We use four to five hours of our time to do the shopping, cooking and putting the video on Snapchat.
How many episodes have you had?
AO: Eleven episodes
Any idea about the current size of your audience?
SO: Currently we’re getting 400 plus views on our Snapchat and every other day we get people adding up.
Not only are you having a field day in the kitchen. You seem to be also gifted with words, the gift of the gab, energy and a very good sense of humour, and some interesting levels of creativity. How does the totality of your personality, skills and experiences come together to make Big Sam’s Kitchen an experience worth paying attention to?
SO: Albert is the mastermind behind those sick captions (laughs). The whole idea was to be different, to do something everyone could connect with. If I decide to just teach people how to cook it would be like some of the same cooking shows they see on TV. For me, there is nothing better than cooking around an environment you like, with good music in the background and something to laugh about.
Albert, describe your brother in a few sentences.
AO: Sammy is a very creative person. Whether he’s cooking, studying, dancing or driving, he’s creative in some sense. The way he thinks, the way he does his stuff. Right from our childhood, he’s been different from the bunch. He learned differently. He played with the big guys. Also he’s very hardworking and fun to hang around with. That’s my bro.
Sammy, how does Albert’s personality and skills complement yours to make Big Sam’s Kitchen what it is?
SO: I can’t imagine doing this better with anyone else but Albert. That dude right there is hilarious, no joke, and would encourage any silly thing I want to do. I love cooking with my brother.
PART II: Quick Bites
What’s the ideal breakfast you’d want to wake up to?
SO: Some French toast, eggs, sausages, waffles and fruit juice.
AO: You can never go wrong with Hausa koko and koose.
What is your favourite music genre? Any favourite artistes?
SO: I love all forms of music, so long as it sounds good. But I will consider myself a hip hop person. My favourite artiste is J. Cole. I could give you a million reasons why I f*ck with Cole but the main reason is that he speaks the truth when it comes to hip hop. My favourite J. Cole song of all time is Love Yours.
AO: Roger that. Sammy on that J. Cole. I like my cool smooth jazz. I really like songs from Amy Winehouse and Fred Hammond is my Gospel music favourite.
Are you a reader? Have you read a book that you think everyone should read?
SO: Honestly, I’m not a reader (laughs). The most recent book I’ve read is this cooking book that I spent my last summer reading, just to learn more about cooking.
AO: Yes I am. I will say Rich Dad Poor Dad because it opened my mind to some real truths that most people are shying away from.
AO: We are both Manchester United fans
What do you do for fun, to unwind or relax?
SO: I play basketball, dance, listen to some J. Cole, hang out with friends and hang out with my girl.
AO: I love watching documentaries on all kinds of topics. That’s what I do when I’m bored.
SO: I think I like the idea of enjoying travelling (laughs). I haven’t travelled far and wide but I hope to travel more to experience different cultures and different cuisines. Miami, Florida is my idea of a holiday getaway.
AO: I’ve been to a couple of West African countries and different parts of Ghana through medical missions. Currently, Singapore is the place I would like to visit.
Do you have any African heroes?
SO: My grandpa. He’s a retired marine engineer. He’s super-chill, like no stress. What makes him my hero is the way he treats my grandma. He’s a real gentleman.
AO: Well that’s tough. I guess I take inspiration from a lot of places and people.
Any role model in the food industry?
SO: Fred Apaloo of Villa Grace by Fred Apaloo
AO: Fred Apaloo. I met Fred at Papaye once. I approached him and he was very nice. I introduced myself to him as Big Sam. And he was like “Oh Big Sam. You guys, what you’re doing is amazing.” I was like, “You are the guy we look up to.”
iPhone or Samsung Galaxy?
SO: We both use iPhone
AO: Galaxy has got nothing on iPhone (laughs)
PART III: Knowing the Big Sam’s Kitchen Brand
What’s the mission of Big Sam’s Kitchen?
SO: The mission is simple. We are creating a fun experience for our audience when it comes to food.
Big Sam’s Kitchen. How did you come up with the name?
SO: I got the inspiration from getting big after working out for 3 months. So Big Sam. Big Sam’s Kitchen.
What makes Big Sam’s Kitchen a distinct or unique service?
SO: What makes us unique among the lot is the fact that we are trying to teach everyone who loves food just as much as we do how to cook it and how to make their plates look good, whiles infusing a lot of fun and energy. I feel like with this, people can relate better rather than just showing them pictures of my ready-to-eat meal when I’m done.
Is this meant to be a business? Or it’s a hobby?
SO: Well it’s a hobby that’s gradually becoming a business. Our show started off as all fun and games, but we realized that there are not a lot of Ghanaian food outlets getting creative with food. I think there is a demand for that level of creativity now in Ghana when it comes to the way we cook and present our foods. Now being a business student with this blessed skill, it’s all right to supply and satisfy that demand.
AO: It’s targeted at anyone anywhere. Anyone who likes good food, who is looking to learn how to fix his or her own food in a fun atmosphere.
Are you going to maintain the brand as a show exclusively on Snapchat or you have future plans of going on YouTube and even Television?
AO: We are gradually learning, reading a lot of books and testing out recipes. We are currently doing this on Snapchat but we plan on growing, improving our video quality, pushing Big Sam’s Kitchen on YouTube and TV if possible.
Where do you envision the Big Sam’s Kitchen brand in the next two years? What can we expect from Big Sam’s Kitchen in the future?
SO: Greatness and more food and flex (laughs).
PART IV: Going into Big Sam’s Kitchen
Favourite kitchen task?
AO: Cutting and slicing, basically the use of the knife to cut foodstuff.
Favourite kitchen tool/equipment/gadget?
SO: Chef’s knife
What’s the first dish you learned how to cook? Who taught you?
SO: Deviled potatoes, taught by Uncle Ernesto.
Food you enjoy cooking the most
SO: Noodle stir fry. It’s the easiest thing ever (laughs).
How do you get inspiration for your recipes?
AO: From Instagram, cookbooks and food channels.
SO: Sometimes I get amazed by some of the things I make. I look at pictures on our Instagram and I’m like “Wow, did I really make that?” I’m always looking forward to doing something that would impress myself when I take pics of them.
Have you come up with any new recipes?
SO: I’m currently working on my recipes so I wouldn’t say I’ve completely come out with one.
Is your goal to come up with new dishes or you just seek to add value to already-existing dishes?
SO: Sometimes it’s really hard to get all the spices I need to cook with, so I improvise with some of our local spices. Since food is art there’s no one way of cooking, I just focus on making it taste better and correcting my mistakes, that’s if it doesn’t taste the way I want it. So yeah, I aim at improving existing ones and creating new ones.
Any favourite cookbook or food blog or food channel?
AO: Yep, the basic food channel everyone loves on DSTV.
What are your top three cooking tips to share with our readers?
SO: One. Never try a new recipe when you are cooking for someone for the first time. Two. Taste as you go.
AO: Please don’t cut yourself (laughs).
What herb or spice will you never miss in any food you prepare?
SO: Salt and pepper. Very important.
AO: When it comes to baking, sugar.
What’s your philosophy when it comes to food?
SO: Ingredients really do matter
What do you most love about this new adventure?
SO: I love what I’m doing because it doesn’t feel like work. I bet if I worked 9-5 in an office, I would be stressing at the end of the day (laughs). With cooking I could do it all day, because I love it and I have so much fun in the kitchen.
Who has been your biggest influence in this journey?
AO: We are our own influencers. We inspire each other.
PART V: Coming Out of the Kitchen
Do you know of any lesser-known eateries in Accra that serve amazing food and drinks that we might not know about yet?
AO: I don’t think there’s any food place that has not been discovered because my fellow Ghanaians love food as much as I do. I think Papaye will continue to be everyone’s favourite fast food place. Oh I love the salad from Barcelos.
If you had to pick three things of interest happening in Ghana right now, what would you want the world to know?
AO: Chale Wote Festival and the Accra Goods Market
What do you think is the next big thing in the Ghanaian food industry?
SO: Big Sam’s Kitchen (laughs)
What’s your advice to young men who have the talent and passion for cooking but are hesitant to do something meaningful with it due to one reason or the other?
SO: The reward for solving a problem is money, so solve a problem. To all the young guys out there. I would tell you to push. Keep pushing and do not give up till you achieve what you’re looking for. This does not just apply to young guys who love to cook but to every single young person who has a talent or a skill. Reach for the stars so in case something happens, you will at least fall on the clouds.
What’s your opinion on food blogs? What role do you think they have to play in terms of how people get information online and how the food landscape is shaped?
AO: Food blogs are very relevant. The relationship between the makers and the bloggers is supposed to be like a two-way system. So I cook, and you blog. You bring me new followers and potential customers. My story drives traffic to your blog. It’s a win-win situation. Bloggers are doing a very good job and I encourage you guys to keep it up.
SO: Food bloggers are doing an amazing job. In the new Ghana, people appreciate the art and creativity that goes into products and services whether it is food or whatever you can think of. So someone cooks and then someone blogs about it. Cos honestly you are the ones who put us out there.
SO and AO: I’ll like to thank God first for everything. Albert and I won’t be here without Him and we are thankful for this talent he has blessed us with. We are forever grateful to our parents and our amazing sisters, Loretta and Audrey. A big thank you to Afriyie of asforafriyie Photography and the Wondaco crew for being supportive and helping out in this journey. Also we would like to say thank you to the This is Accra crew. Their posts of our products have created awareness about our brand and brought in some good traffic. A big thank you to all our close friends who have been with us since the inception of Big Sam’s Kitchen. To every single person supporting us, liking our pics on social media, commenting on what we’re doing, we couldn’t say a big enough Thank You. God bless you, and keep supporting Big Sam’s Kitchen.